Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Stick With The Winners"

When I first started going to meetings, I was told to ‘stick with the winners’--whatever that meant. I remember something about finding people with more than two years, and finding people who the program was working for. Looking back, what I was probably told was to find people who were working a program. What does it mean to work the program? It means doing those things everyone always says to do: go to meetings, get a sponsor, work the steps, be of service, help others. What does it mean to be a ‘winner’? That's not as easy to answer.

There are some vague answers. Look for someone with that light shining in their eye--it’s the glean of having a new lease on life, the glow of having had a spiritual experience. You could say look for people who are happy, joyous, and free, but I know that wouldn't have worked for me. When I was a newcomer, I thought the people who were happy were full of shit. I didn't believe anyone could be happy. I didn't trust people who were nice to me. If they were, I thought something was seriously wrong with them.

I have a little bit of a problem with the word ‘winner’. To call some people ‘winners’ says to me that others are losers. I don’t believe that kind of thinking is helpful to the Recovery process. God knows I didn't feel like a winner when I first walked through the doors. Even now, I can’t claim to feel like a ‘winner’. The word is a total misnomer. Other people might feel differently, but for me, the closest word I would pick is ‘lucky’. Maybe ‘damn lucky’. Or maybe even ‘lucky-ass sonofabitch’. There is the temptation, too, to go overboard into Denial-Happy-Land and say that we’re all winners. Well, tra-la-la!!

When we walk into the rooms, we don’t have healthy instincts. Our impulses have been ravaged by the disease. We pick friends, lovers, and associates who aren’t good for us. We have yet to develop the skill of choosing people to have in our lives that are good for us. Heeding that advice of getting to know ‘the winners’ is a good thing, but when we're new, our ability to pick out the winners is practically zero. To make matters worse, the people who fit the description are alien to us, foreign. We’re used to misery; we don’t trust peace and serenity. We think it’s a myth or an illusion at best.

So take it back to the basics: why did we step into the rooms of Recovery? To find a way to live without being loaded. How do we do that? We learn from the people who have. We ask them what they have done, and we do as they did. The more time someone has, the more likely it is that what they do works.

We talked about ‘sticking with the winners’ at my meeting last night. I found myself thinking that I am one of the winners. Looking at it through a certain lens, I can see that it’s true. I’ve put together over two years of time. I have a sponsor, I sponsor others. I work the steps and I’m of service. The program has worked for me--because I’ve worked it. But I’m still uncomfortable with the label of being a ‘winner’. It might be lingering self-esteem issues, or it might be a humility thing.

Or maybe I just prefer to think of myself as a lucky sonofabitch.

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